PRISTINA -- The European Parliament's rapporteur for the Western Balkans says violent clashes between Kosovar police and Albanian protesters trying to blockade the Serbian border hurt international attempts to improve relations between Belgrade and Pristina, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.
EU rapporteur Jelko Kacin accused Albin Kurti -- leader of the Kosovar Albanian Self-Determination (Vetevendosje) movement that organized the protest in which more than 50 people were hurt and more than 100 arrested -- of acting the same way as ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo who have blocked border posts to protest Kosovar police and customs officials stationed there.
Kacin said he cannot accept Kurti's explanation that the protest on January 14-15 was a reciprocal measure, in line with the spirit of the EU, against Serbia's failure to implement trade and movement agreements with Kosovo.
"It was a provocation and it was a provocation promoting isolation and...a blockage in order to stop trade between Serbia and Kosovo and it is quite [different from] the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina," Kacin said. "The substance of the protests was quite the opposite of the basic values of the European Union, which are about the free movement of goods, people, and capital."
Kacin, who is Slovenian, said the violence also weighed negatively on the international community's efforts to persuade Belgrade to end a blockade that prevents Kosovo from taking part in international forums.
"The consequence is that what was happening in the previous months in northern Kosovo [led by Serbs] has become a little bit more irrelevant because the same behavior was demonstrated on the [Kosovar Albanian] side," he said.
Kacin said "it was a gesture of solidarity for those who were demonstrating in northern Kosovo and as we condemned [the Serbian] barricades we simply need to condemn this kind of behavior [by Kosovar Albanians] as well."
But Kurti told RFE/RL it is police and the government which should be blamed for the violence: "It is our right to implement reciprocity. ... It was not a protest against Serbia but a protest in favor of the domestic economy."
Kurti has announced that a new attempt to block the border with Serbia will take place this weekend.
Self-Determination is the third-largest parliamentary party in Kosovo. It opposes foreign involvement in all internal affairs in Kosovo and campaigns for the country's sovereignty.